Any good conversation about small business marketing eventually leads to talk of blood, doesn’t it?

The other day I was working with my brother on some business marketing ideas and we got sidetracked about the difference between practicing guitar versus performing live.

He’s a guitar player and I’m a bass player, products of high school rock-n-roll dreams.

Music is as big a passion for each of us as is business. And both passions can get bloody. There are years of blood stains on my bass guitar and we’ve both shed lots of figurative blood in our business adventures.

how to command the stage in small businessOur discussion was about the incredible difference between practice versus performance. We can practice our instruments for hours and never get tired, our fingers don’t get calluses, and our wrists don’t get sore.

But there is a Jekyll and Hyde transformation that happens during a live performance. Calluses appear almost instantly. Fingers crack open, leaving red streaks of blood wherever they touch. We’re blinded by the sweat dripping in our eyes, unable to free a hand to wipe it away. The paint and varnish on our guitars fades to bare wood in spots, eroded by years of blood, sweat, and rough handling.

Yeah…there’s a difference.

Bleeding on my bass guitar—performing live—is so much like being a small business owner.

Every sales call I’ve ever done was a performance. (Sometimes I sure felt like I was bleeding!) Every marketing effort launched is the beginning of a new song; will the reader love it or hate it? Every new product offered leaves me sweating and sometimes bloodied.

Yet what I’ve learned about practicing and performing music helps me in business every day.

5 Musical Ideas That Can Help Your Sales and Marketing

Here are five musical ideas that can make your sales and marketing efforts really sing.


Before we get good at anything we must practice, whether it’s a sales call or song. But we don’t just play the song or practice the sales call from beginning to end, over and over. No. True practice means you must take things apart before you put it all together. Sometimes it’s two notes at a time.

Musicians warm up by practicing scales and fundamentals. In sales, we learn about personality types. We learn the anatomy of sales calls. We write scripts for various scenarios and we role play. We take classes and get training.

In marketing, we figure out who we’re talking to. Then we figure out how we’re going to find them and talk to them. Then we figure out what we’re going to say to them. Whatever our role in business, we continue to study and practice the fundamentals.

Mistakes—Make Them and Fix Them

Second, we stop and review mistakes. Then we revise and practice some more until we get it right. We rehearse the uncomfortable stuff until we feel more at ease. There is always something that makes us uncomfortable. Those are the things to stop and fix.

Go Slowly

Third, we practice the hard parts slowly. If a potential sales call is complex, with lots of people, products, or services involved, we study one thing at a time. We figure out every possible objection ahead of time. We learn about every person involved in the transaction. Then we role play some more.

If a marketing project is complicated, we slow down to look at each step logically. We make sure all the moving parts fit and flow in line with our purpose. When we start slowly and proceed consistently, we can put together the most complicated products or deals.

Observe the Great Performers

Fourth, we observe other performers. Is there a top performer in your industry whom you admire? Watch what they do, analyze it, and apply it to your situation. Talk to them.

That’s me a few years ago with Gene Simmons (below). Yes, he’s controversial. Yet he’s  an undeniably successful performer and businessman.


If they’re authors, read all their stuff. If they offer business coaching or consultation, invest in it.


Fifth, we perform. This is where it all comes together. In a sense this is the ultimate practice step. We’ll learn as much in one performance as we can in months of practice. But we can’t skip the practice either!

When we perform, adrenaline is pumping and nervous energy is at work. All eyes are on us, expecting great things. Sometimes they want us to fail. Either way we feel it.

If the energy is good, it magnifies our own good energy. We grip the neck of the guitar like they might take it from us, and we play hard from the first note to the last. When we’re on stage and the song starts, it’s got to finish no matter how well or how badly we’re playing.

The same goes for a sales call. You can’t stop it in mid-track and say, “Hey wait, I didn’t respond correctly, let’s go back.” You can only go forward. Believe me, you’ll start sweating when your prospect is sitting across from you, demanding answers and throwing up objections as fast as you can answer them.

If you’ve never felt the energy of a live, face-to-face sales call, you haven’t really done sales.

The good news is that much like with performing, audiences and clients rarely notice your mistakes. Just keep playing the song. You’re in charge and you can change the tempo and feel. Maybe you need to repeat the chorus.

Performers also get more and more attuned to their band mates with each show. We learn to listen to each other and make changes in dynamics, tempo, and tone, without ever saying a word. The same is true of your sales call. With each “performance” you learn to better read your client, to listen to what’s going on, to pick up cues. You learn to relax and use the adrenaline to your advantage.

Performance is an intensely powerful way to educate and arm yourself. Sure, you’ll get callused and bloody, but there’s nothing like it.

If you’re not bleeding when you’re performing, you’re not doing your best. If you’re not getting returns or being asked for refunds, you’re not selling hard enough. If you’re not encountering difficulty, you might not be working hard enough.

Yet practice is essential before you ever set foot on stage if you want to be a star performer. Take command of your stage.

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Andre Palko Owner
Andre Palko is founder of the Small Business Rainmaker™ and its free weekly e-newsletter. He is dedicated to delivering award-winning marketing and content that helps business owners thrive in any economy.